The UN Human Rights Council Must Establish an Independent Inquiry into Human Rights Abuses in Yemen

The Yemen Peace Project (YPP) and 56 other NGOs delivered a letter today to the members of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) calling on the Council to create an independent, international inquiry into human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict in Yemen. Yemen is currently facing the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, with 17 million Yemenis facing food insecurity, thousands of Yemenis killed by violence, and over three million displaced by conflict. All sides to the conflict exacerbate the humanitarian crisis by indiscriminately targeting civilians and vital civilian infrastructure, blocking the distribution of humanitarian aid, and committing other human rights abuses such as recruiting child soldiers and arbitrarily detaining journalists and members of civil society. The UNHRC must establish an independent, international inquiry into these abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in order to establish accountability and deliver justice to the victims of the conflict.

Two years into the conflict, both the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi-Saleh alliance continue to flout international human rights and humanitarian law. The Saudi-led coalition has perpetuated an aerial bombing campaign in Yemen; many of its airstrikes have hit civilian targets rather than military targets, and some of these incidents may amount to war crimes. Last week, the Saudi-led coalition conducted two airstrikes that hit civilians in San’a, killing at least 82 people. The coalition also maintains an aerial and maritime blockade that cripples the Yemeni economy, prevents journalists from reporting on the conflict, and severely limits the distribution of vital humanitarian aid. Houthi-Saleh forces have shelled Ta’iz indiscriminately, killing and injuring dozens of civilians. Troops on all sides of the conflict have illegally detained and forcibly disappeared hundreds of people.

The Houthi-Saleh alliance refuses to cooperate with the existing Yemeni national inquiry or investigations by the UN Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights (OHCHR). The Yemeni national inquiry and the inquiry established by the coalition (JIAT) both face allegations of partiality and problems regarding accountability, methodology, and implementation of recommendations for punitive measures. JIAT also fails to investigate numerous attacks on civilians documented by the UN and NGOs, and the conclusions of its investigations vastly differ from those of impartial organizations. Additionally, Saudi Arabia has threatened to cut funding to the UN if the UN refused to remove it from the child rights blacklist.

The YPP and the other signatories to today’s letter urge the UNHRC to immediately establish an international independent inquiry into all abuses committed by parties to the conflict. The people of Yemen have waited long enough for justice.